As the demand of patient care and backlogs continue to put pressure on trusts and eye care units, a consequence is the difficulty in medical royal colleges being able to maintain high standards and resources to assess, examine, educate and train future generations of ophthalmologists and eye care professionals to deliver comprehensive care to patients safely and in a timely way. These responsibilities are incorporated into the charter of royal colleges.
It is vital that senior SAS doctors, as well as consultants, are given professional leave to carry out these important areas of support. Ben Burton, RCOphth President said, ‘SAS doctors should be acknowledged for their important contribution to medical royal college work, including Council and committee representation, as well as being available to offer guidance, examination, training and educational content’.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges agrees that SAS doctors are an untapped potential workforce (ref 1) that can be used more effectively. There is an ever-growing recognition of the valuable role that SAS Doctors play not only in service provision but also in education and training of other staff and in leadership roles (ref 2).
If the RCOphth is hampered in its ability to deliver its core services by a lack of clinician time, it will hamper the development of trainees who will be expected to fill consultant roles in the future. As our recent workforce census pointed out, two thirds of units currently rely on expensive locums to cover consultant vacancies.
In 2022, the AoMRC, Chief Medical Officers and the GMC signed letters (ref 3) to trusts asking for the appropriate release of medical colleagues for the purpose of carrying out work for the wider health system, writing to encourage trust boards and leaders ‘to continue to look favorably on requests from doctors seeking your support to undertake national or regional work for the wider benefit of the public and of health services across England and the devolved administrations.’
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists understands that it is a difficult balance for trusts to continue to provide patient care, given the capacity issues and continuing backlogs, alongside releasing senior SAS doctors for these important areas of education, training and assessment.
Ben Burton continued, ‘It is important that the College has involvement from SAS doctors, who make up a large part of our workforce and should be represented. It is essential that SAS doctors are supported by their trusts to be able to take their proper place in supporting and contributing to the work of the College. I urge all trusts in the UK to support requests for professional leave and to facilitate this through job planning where necessary’.